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The Casual Aussie

In the modern world many types of behavior are tolerated. Angry people are allowed to run the streets chanting their violent slogans. Individuals are entitled to live the life of a hermit, barely communicating with anyone else. Saying that things have changed is too simplistic. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Some have said that Australia's new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is too familiar with all those around him, calling fellow members of cabinet by their nicknames. It has been said that this is new for Australia. This is nonsense. Australians quickly find the names of strangers and from the "get go" call them by their first names. I remember watching a talk on television some years ago and the American was really upset by the Australian, who was also being interviewed, for not addressing him as Mr "Smith".

Australia is an unusual country. It has a culture of bringing everyone to the same level. Honorifics have little place in such a culture. Judges for example are treated as just public servants. Other countries rank judges highly and ordinary people would not even attempt a jovial conversation with them. Australians can see no barrier.

In recent years Australia could be said to be moving in the other direction. The street barbecue is fading away and neighbors rarely talk to each other. I hope Australia does not go down the same road as Britain and France where false "upper-class' accents are adopted by those trying to move up the fixed societal ranking. No, let Australia be. It has a unique heritage and being different is a good thing.
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